Today is the 36th Annual Great American Smokeout, an awareness day from the American Cancer Association encouraging people to quit smoking or make a plan to quit. Although smoking is often associated with lung cancer, it's also really bad news for diabetes; it puts PWDs at an increased risk of heart disease and also affects diabetic neuropathy, because of a decrease in circulation. Icky...
Over the years, the Great American Smokeout has been celebrated with rallies, parades, and even bowling events with frozen turkeys in support of going "cold turkey" off cigarettes. This year, we're recognizing the day with a guest post from our good friend George Simmons, aka the Ninjabetic, who quit smoking five years ago, thanks in part to the Diabetes Online Community. We hope his story of overcoming his smoking addiction will inspire you!
A Guest Post by
Back in 2006 I made a decision to change my life.
It all started with getting online and finally making diabetes a priority. For a long time I just went through the motions with my diabetes but never focused on it at all. Now I was ready to do it!
Finding the DOC and connecting with so many people gave me the knowledge I needed to get myself in gear and take my diabetes life into my own hands. It started with my blog, and then finding a good doctor, beginning to test my blood glucose levels several times a day, and starting insulin pump therapy.
And that was the first 5 months of the year.
But there was one thing that I knew I needed to tackle next: Smoking.
I had smoked since back in high school, so this addiction and habit was deeply rooted in my life. I knew it would be tough, but I had to try and quit.
One doctor prescribed some pills that were supposed to help but all they did was make me tired. I tried 'cold turkey' and that didn't work either. I tried the Nicotine gum, the lozenges, and whatever else I could try, but nothing worked.
Why could I not quit? I have kids, I have a wife, I have lots of friends and family I love, so why were these things not enough of a motivator to quit? Guilt of not being able to find the motivation in my life to quit was pretty difficult to deal with, and frankly, hard to admit even now.
But then something amazing happened.
I woke up one morning after a business trip with a purple toe. I mean dark purple, like I had seriously bruised or broken it, although I had no clue what could have happened.
I got up and walked out to my backyard without waking anyone up. While sitting on my back porch I grabbed a cigarette and smoked it while looking down at my foot. I began to sob uncontrollably because I was sure I was going to lose my toe and who knows what else.
"So now it starts," I said it to myself as a way of seeing the damage diabetes had done. I pulled it together and woke up my wife to let her know that I needed to go to urgent care.
You should know that of all the diabetes complications out there, none scare me more than losing my feet. It terrifies me just thinking about it, so you can imagine how I was feeling on that trip to the doctor's.
The doctor said that a tiny cut on the bottom of my toe must have gotten infected, but with antibiotics I would be fine.
"You have no idea how glad that makes me!" The sense of relief was overwhelming.
"Just so you know, George, smoking is really bad for people with diabetes. The fact is that smoking constricts your blood vessels and circulation is already an issue you need to worry about. Every time you smoke, you need to realize that you are jeopardizing your toes with every cigarette."
That was it. I needed that thing, that tangible thing to motivate me!
I picked a date, I bought a bunch of nicotine patches, I told the world to keep me accountable, and on August 28th, I finally quit for good.
For years I tried to quit smoking, but I learned that you can't depend on outside forces; it truly is up to you to do it, to find that thing that truly motivates. My wife and kids are the most important things in my life and yet I could not use them as my motivator. I think it was because I never smoked in the house, and there was always that feeling that I could just put it off a while longer. Until the damage was right in my face.
And if you fall off the wagon and start smoking again, don't beat yourself up. It may take several attempts, but you will get there.
Maybe not the first time you try. Heck, maybe not the 20th, but if you don't try to quit then you never ever will.
Our sincere thanks to George for baring all here. Anyone else out there manage to quit smoking? Or making plans to kick the habit? We'd love to hear your thoughts, or help support you through the process.